Staff Editorial: Cleveland Browns Quarterback proved wrong about Mason when he shouldn’t have been

Remember when Cleveland Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield tweeted at Mason High School calling us soft? 

Yeah, so do we. 

One of the more tumultuous moments here at Mason High School began as a way to reduce stress and ease the cutthroat academic culture here at Mason. Somehow it ended in a viral tweet by Cleveland Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield on May 11, 2019. He came to the enlightening conclusion that Mason students would fail to push themselves academically with the removal of the valedictorian and salutatorian titles.

Now, with this directive in place for almost two years, it is safe to say that Mayfield and the Barstool Sports article that echoed his opinion couldn’t have been farther from the truth. 

Because while the world is in disarray, for many Mason students, the real apocalypse still remains to be keeping up academically even as we reach unparalleled levels of burnout.

A key indicator of this truth lies in the numbers themselves, which only seem to get more and more extreme. This year every single prestigious university saw a dramatic increase in college applications, an effect of the pandemic. The most selective colleges used to range from 4-6% acceptance rates. 

Now these rates are dropping by about half. 

It appears that those vying for these colleges (Mason students are no strangers to this bunch) just have to hope that their application doesn’t get lost in the stack.

Because the incentive of being the at top of the class was never the entire reason kids at Mason strategically took GPA boosting courses. The scope is much larger and complex, involving the glamour of the Ivy League, the reason why the college admissions bribery scandal exists at all, and the notion that a .03 increase in GPA is worth the 30 more hours per week of work.

Located at just one branch of the college admissions frenzy that has boosted selectiveness, Mason finds itself in the category of The High-achieving Public School: not quite rich enough for all of the students to coolly pay their way to the top nor like an exclusive private school that designs itself to be a direct feeder into elite institutions. 

Instead what we have are a lot of smart, hard-working students with enough resources and supportive teachers to allow them to see glimpses of the academic high life — and enough glimpses to want it. 

Because at the root of it, under the ton of pounds of self-inflicted and external pressures, we all feel deep down that these early “wins” are head starts (or even tickets of entry) to a successful, prosperous life. 

We aren’t gonna tell you what you’ve already been told. That college acceptances don’t define you or solidify your life path (which is true). That authentic passion and hard work will always prevail when the smoke and mirrors of rejections by at times corrupt and always money-making institutions fade away (also true). 

Instead we offer a different story. Playing into this competitiveness, into the toxicity that Mayfield supported, is not only unhealthy, but it just doesn’t work anymore. With thousands of applicants who have already tested out the valedictorian lifestyle, a perfect GPA or good test score or impressive rack of extracurriculars is old news. Contrary to Mayfield’s twitter stance that competition “bring[s] out the best in people,” it seems that this sort of competition has instead brought out the worst, churning out resumes dependent on scantron scores when the students behind them feel inadequate rather than proud and worthy.

Colleges, however, don’t want scantron machines.

 Similar to the real world (forget what they say; life is not a race nor a competition), colleges want students who are deeply interested and invested in promising ideas and people and are motivated but not to an extreme. 

It is good to have ambition and getting into college is something we all deserve to feel good about and to celebrate.

But sometimes, goals for the future are just present agents of pain in disguise. The idea that a success in the distance will excuse all the the present anguish shouldn’t be the mindset, especially in high school. 

Yeah, we already know this. And yet, we often refuse this reality until it’s too late. But what if we told you accepting this early on will help you both personally and professionally? That in this compeitive world of perfection, being human is rare? That finding a passion and a reason to be happy is the elusive “holistic” factor colleges seek?

We can’t ensure a 100% success rate. This path probably won’t work every single time. But at least you’ll come out the other side (where everyone ends up anyway) a little less jaded about what the world has to offer. 

Yes, it’s true that Mayfield missed the mark with a comment about our school which has churned out more success without assigning a valedictorian than all of the Brown’s recent football seasons combined. But to begin piecing back together your sanity and give you the edge you didn’t know was so simple to obtain, it may be smart to take his insult as advice. 

Take a breather, do something you love, do it as well as you can, and maybe, just for a moment, realize that we could all benefit from going a little soft.